Again with the theme of the Americans running things at the moment (it’s becoming a bit amusing now), we’re back with another feature documenting this progression.
We’ve been a fan of the Dubs Alive imprint since its early outings – and were delighted to see a recent compilation titled Don’t Tread on Dub sit quite comfortably atop the #1 throne on the Juno Charts for over three weeks.
We took this sign it was high time we sat down to discuss all things Dubs Alive. This coincidentally spending time with one of the label bosses, who happens to be one of the nicest dudes we’ve had the pleasure of meeting in this busy bass music world. And, given we’ve indirectly (and directly) supported a good number of the gifted artists that have featured on the imprint (some well known and others incredibly underrated), this is no bad thing.
Dubsworth, along with the other producers and partners in crime involved in running the label, continue to push dub forward – and his view on dubwise music is contagious, something we’ve grown to really admire. We sat down with Daniel and had a much needed catch up, so enjoy the long and informative read and don’t forget to listen!
Hey boss, how are you doing? Pretty fantastic man, it’s my busiest year ever and I’m the most inspired I’ve ever been.
For those who don’t know, can you give us a brief overview of the Dubs Alive ‘mission statement’? Dubs Alive really comes from a deeply mutual love of wanting to blend live instruments with electronic music. When Ric (TUBA) and I founded the label and came into the scene, we were some of the earliest schooled musicians in the world producing dubstep and knew this would be the niche we brought the table.
Around 2007, it was an amazing time in the Bay Area, because you had so many people from different electronic genre backgrounds all going to the same dubstep nights: everyone loving the different vibes together. Each person was bringing something different to the sound, and at that time, if you weren’t doing something different you wouldn’t be embraced.
The early tunes I liked were the ones that had musicians or at least were made by producers with natural musician-like qualities and I wanted to create a label / outlet for that sound. Now, going into 2015, Cody (Tapa) and I have continued to push the live instrumental tradition of the label. Our latest compilation release has 5 different producers playing guitars on their own tracks, on top of several other musicians and singers, so I’m proud to say we are more in touch with the ‘live’ part of Alive than we’ve ever been before.
Given it’s a hot topic at the minute, what’s your current experience of dubstep your side of the pond? It’s certainly been an amazing journey watching the genre go from 20 heads in a small dank club to Grammy Awards and the average mainstream listener not only knowing of dubstep, but having this idea that they definitively know what dubstep sounds like. This is ultimately the greatest challenge facing dubstep and perhaps more unfortunately dub in America.
Nowadays when I speak to the average American and tell them I make dub, many people respond (with a disgusted look):
“Oh is that like dubstep? I’m not really into that.”
But then you sit down with that person to play them roots dub or ‘tasteful’ dubstep and they love it. So now those of us who are in tune with the depth and breadth of dub(step) bare a responsibility to open closed minds to what the styles always were and can be. We have to show the diversity by not succumbing to trends and massaging out the pre-conditioned genre ideas. There’s just so much freshness to explore within the sounds, like with all genres. All you need is the right curator in the right context.
Did you read Joe Nice’s recent Thump interview – and catch his thoughts on the sound’s developments? What’s your view?Joe Nice and the whole Reconstrvct crew really show how this scene was built on passionate people, doing what they see best to grow the sound. Their love and support of dubstep was so fundamental to the scene and will continue to be going forward. It’s really critical that Joe and all the people mentioned in that interview are doing what they do to help teach everyone about great bass music.
The recent Dont Tread on Dub compilation seems to have done really well – congrats! Were you expecting the reaction it got? Thanks so much! It’s completely inspiring to see the response it got!
You can never tell with some release because with many of them, we try and walk the line of being DJ friendly and headphone listener. This project came from a great collection of old and new label friends who while all coming from different places, blended into a modern dub journey. The statement of this record was really a combo of expressing both the diversity of what we feel dub is and can be, and that the genre is alive and well.
What have you guys got coming for Dubs Alive Records in 2015? First off, we have some massive digital releases and free downloads on the way this year, which will continue to test the waters of the Future Dub sound while paying homage to the roots. Our website has received a huge update including artist profiles, piles of free music, and full length streaming of our last 11 releases (with more to come). Tapa has his new handmade dub sirens available and some exciting new off shoots of that project on the way – check out the custom one we’ve built for FatKidOnFire. Finally we’re extremely excited to be releasing our first vinyl this year…
How is the live act with Tapa going? What can we expect from you both over the next few months? After playing together in several live projects, our latest group, The Dubs Alive Band, is making new waves and gaining a lot of support. We put up some great new video footage (including a jam with Matty G on drums) which is really starting to help people understand how we play as a band vs what’s typically referred to as a “live” set. The band is currently working on a lengthy EP with a highly talented reggae vocalist we’ll be announcing soon. Beyond Dubs Alive, over the next few months Tapa and I have a track dropping on the next Subaltern/TUBA compilation, along with a track by myself coming on Interchill in June.
In terms of your live performance, what’s your favourite piece of hardware? Well I’m totally biased there because it will always be my bass guitar (2001 Fender Jazz Bass with EMG Pickups). I run it through some EQ and processing to focus the sound on the sub bass range. Being able to explore a live feel within the sublo area creates a special dynamic with the audience you don’t get to experience with pre-recorded bass samples. When it comes to playing in bands, my heart is deeply in the rhythm section and I love the role supporting all of the musicians in a group with the least amount of notes required.
If you have any, what advice would you give the bedroom producers just starting out? The main advice I have is not to fear theory or learning an instrument. Theory comes from the music, so your ideas don’t go away when you learn new tools and a common language to express yourself. I see a lot of producers waiting to study theory out of fear that it will inhibit their ideas. It’s very similar to a fear I once had toward practicing scales.
Then, one day, one of my favourite bass teachers told me “you have all the creativity you’re ever gonna have and you’re not gonna lose it”. From that point forward, I realised the theory could make me a better player, so much faster, getting my hands out of the way of my ideas. Learning theory or an instrument allows for quicker access to your ears, and helps you speak a more timeless statement as you absorb historical context.
Who are your top three favourite artists at the moment? This is always a hard one to answer cause I’m always going to leave 100s of people out who are my favourites and listen to so much besides dubstep at that. So besides everyone on the label and who I’ve ever told is awesome, 3 very interesting dubstep folks at the moment are Sleeper, LAS, and Geode. Also at any given moment my top 3 favorite artists are James Brown. Haha!
What can you tell us about the FKOF free download you’re kindly giving away with this feature? This is a special track to me that’s actually a deep dub VIP version of a tune I released several years ago on Full Melt Recordings. It’s got live guitar and is also part of a special thank you to all of the people who are supporting our latest compilation.
Any final words or shoutouts? Awesome, as ever, to collaborate and good luck with everything over the next few months! As always, I want to give you guys at FKOF a massive thank you for the support and look forward to more collaboration this year! And to all the bass music heads out there, never stop supporting the artists you love!
Keep an eye on Dubs Alive and their forthcoming future dub sound. And, if you’ve slept on it (shame on you), catch up with the astoundingly good Dont Tread on Dub compilation here. It’s awesome to see the label going from strength to strength – and we look forward to supporting Daniel, Cody and the rest of the family with their future endeavours!
The FKOF review:
“Dubsworth’s dub tribute announces itself in a number of positive ways, a signature production that becomes immediately clear thanks to the use of the producer’s legitimate guitar parts and authentic drum samples. The word ‘justice’ is of underlying importance in this track, bubbling underneath all of the elements that find the higher level of unity.
“A peaceful flow of subbass accompanies this American creation, adding pressure to the mindful hi-hat performance in the higher region of the mix. ARP-programming is used intelligently to move crowds that will need to witness the full glory of this production in front of a proper sound system. It’s the perfect audio outlook on the approaching summer time. Dubsworth is standing tall and waving the Dubs Alive flag high, high for all to see…”